Aud vs. Australia: the Blue Mountains

You guys – after nearly 3 years, I got to see the Blue Mountains.

FINALLY!

There has always been something stopping me from getting there – mostly because I wanted to go with Joel the first time I went, and our schedules, the weather, money, and someone with a car just never lined up. But last weekend, the stars aligned. I bought some active wear (active wear!), we woke up before dawn, and set out with our friend Rob, his flatmate Eloise and her pal Oxanna to see Empress Falls in the Blue Mountains National Park.

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6:00AM. SO cold. SO sleepy. But the early bird beats the tour busses.
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We reached the trail around 8:30AM. It was a brisk 7*C. 

After a traffic free, two and half hour drive, we reached the mountains. It felt cold. It felt like actual winter cold, with real frost in the air. So that was exciting. It was less exciting that I was wearing super thin, stretchy active wear pants and that didn’t do a thing to keep me warm unless I was moving in them (clever girl, active wear).

We parked the car and set out to begin our 3.5 km trail. I was too excited to get to the first look out to take many pictures, but I did see some killer rocks, and a pair of underpants in a tree (nature!).

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rocks!

Eloise and Oxanna and I had never been to the mountains, so when we reached the first look out, there were collective OOooOooOOo’s and AAAaaaAAAhhHhHhhs. It was incredible. All the photos I’ve seen, all the movies they’ve been featured in, nothing does them justice. And seeing the bright white cockatoo’s flying against the green trees was beautiful. It’s like looking down at a masterpiece.

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OOoOoOooo
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AhhHHhHhHhhh
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AAAaaAaaHhhHhhh
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camera frenz
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I love how spindly the gum trees look against the greenery
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fence/schmence
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so majestic

We continued down, down the trail, down the trail steps, down the rickety wooden stairs, down the slick, narrow, metal stairs, and we finally got to a valley that looked straight out of Ferngully. Or even Jurrassic Park. All rock walls and hanging plants and waterfalls and boulders.

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staring up at the rock wall above us was almost dizzying

And there we got our first look at Empress Falls.

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don’t let those little stairs fool you – walking up them is no treat.

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It was absolutely beautiful down in the valley. We were down far enough for the sun to barely touch us, and we were surrounded by so many trees and water falls that it felt like walking in a rain forest. I felt like I couldn’t take enough videos or pictures, like I was trying to memorise the entire scene with my camera. It’s just beautiful. Also I kept waiting for a dinosaur to jump out at me.

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People ab-sail these falls. People die. People are ballsy for no reason.

 

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So Ferngully
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I imagine this would be a cool place to swim in summer. If I wasn’t terrified of everything living inside it. And if this place weren’t crawling with tourists in warm weather.

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It was so still and quiet. Since we made it there so early, there weren’t many people around besides us. All you could hear was the waterfall and the birds. No planes, no cars, no people, no phones buzzing. Everything smelled wet and Earthy. I felt the cold air settling in my lungs. It was phenomenal.

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poignant photos of pheet
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this is a playground that 9 year old Audrey would’ve died for
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RAPIDZ
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Jabba the Rock
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Joel taught me how to use my long exposure setting (i.e. the one good photo taken all day)
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An artist prepares. Also disobeys the perimeter markers. #rebel

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the tiniest spider in all Australia
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I love finding love locks

Joel and Rob spent a lot of time getting photos of the waterfall.

Like, A LOT of time.

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so there was a lot of time for reflection and chill

At one point I took out my book, sat on a rock and read a couple of chapters. Totes felt one with the world and nature — sitting outside in the almost sun, listening to the waterfall, breathing in the pure mountain air, wearing my active wear— and I was nearly overwhelmed by how lucky I was to experience all this splendour and solitude and how I should do this more often, when I realised my butt was frozen to the cold rock and I almost pulled a muscle when I extricated myself from it. And then I slipped on the moss when I got down and nearly fell in the water.

Maybe I’m not 100% ready for nature.

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More poignant photos of pheet (also, slippery moss)

Eventually the photographers packed up and we all continued down the trail the next waterfall, Sylvia Falls.

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great rock walls
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and more greenery
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and this gorgeous stack of waterfall

I could have stared at this waterfall all day. It was beautiful. We got there right as the afternoon sun was hitting the rocks perfectly — it was hazy and glittery and very much dreamy.

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dat sun
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my favourite

The sun was also casting amazing light on the trees above us. At this point the tip of my nose and my finger tips were insanely cold (yassss winter cold) and all I wanted to do was take a nap in that sun. But I liked the look of the highlighted gum trees and the dark shadows where the light didn’t touch. Yeah, I had Mufasa’s voice in my head the whole time.

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Love
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Love more

After spending some more time with Sylvia, the moment I had been dreading since we made plans to go to the mountains finally came. It was time… to hike back up to the car.

I’m woefully out of shape. Like, I have the cardiovascular endurance of a 700lb diabetic smoker who’s been bed-ridden for years. It’s baffling to the doctors I work with, who think I must be asthmatic to get excruciatingly, painfully winded with even moderate exertion, but really, I’m just horrifically unfit. Climbing stairs makes me winded, and the slightest incline makes my thighs hurt. And with every step I took going down on the initial journey, I knew that would be one more step going up on the return. So I said a little prayer to the active wear Gods and started followed the rest of my team up the first set of stairs.

I quickly realised Eloise was behind me. I let her pass in front of me, saying “I’m going to be really slow, you won’t want to get caught behind me.”

“Oh that’s ok, I’m really slow too!”

“Nope, you have no idea how slow I’ll be.”

And it was true. Just climbing the short bit of rock stairs between Sylvia Falls and Empress Falls left me gasping and pretending to video the guys ab-sailing so I could catch my breath. Joel hung back with me and pushed me up parts of the stairs, and stopped with me whenever I started seeing stars and needed to stop. I was trying to be positive, trying to feel the inspiration of my active wear and JUST PUSH THROUGH IT! NO PAIN NO GAIN! HUSTLE GETS MUSCLE! INSPIRATIONAL PHRASE but all that kept running through my head was Sam telling Frodo that they needed to save the elfish bread for the return trip home and Frodo looking at him and being all “yeah, we aren’t making it home.” I was quite certain I would die, even as people twice my age were bounding up the stairs and that asshole fitness jock passed us jogging — again.

It took me about 20, maybe 30 hours mins longer to make the walk back to the car. I couldn’t breathe deep enough. My heart was straining from beating so fast, my lungs felt like steel wool, my ribs all felt cracked, my throat and nose were killing me, my head was splitting, and my arms and legs were spaghetti. My face was beet red and I was ready to collapse. At one point I tasted blood (I swear!). It was actually pretty scary. My chest and throat hurts just thinking about it.

But, I survived. And we made our way to the Conservatory Hut to have breakfast. And milkshakes. Because after facing death in the face, you get a milkshake.

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Hello pal (did you come to signal my death? Contrary to popular belief, I survived)
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Milkshake frenz
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Breakfast of Champions. We all ordered simple breakfasts, but the waitress brought us all GIANT BREAKFAST PLATTER. I ate almost all of it, and killed that milkshake. #yolo

We picked up some take away coffees and made our way to the car. I was warm, happy, and snug in the backseat, but too full of caffeine and adrenaline to sleep. When we got home, though, I was instantly so tired I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I slept for 2.5 hours and woke up feeling like I got hit by a truck.

I’ve been sick all week as a result of my cold-weather-over-exertion and resulting sinus/chest infection, but shit. It was absolutely gorgeous and I would do all again next weekend.

Except this time, I’d hire a helicopter to save me from the hike back.

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Goodbye Mountains. Thank you for not killing me.

Verdict: +10, will mountain again. Must get in shape, or I will die.

Onwards to the next adventure!

AudPodge vs. Australia

The building I work in has a balcony with a view of the ANZAC Bridge, and yesterday I spent my lunch break up there. It was one of those days where the sun was perfect, the humidity was perfect, the temperature was perfect, the breeze was perfect, and the pollen count was awful (can’t win ’em all). Continue reading “AudPodge vs. Australia”

A Year in Review

September 3rd brought about my one year anniversary of living in Sydney with Joel. We celebrated with Netflix, champagne and sweatpants.

One of Joel's customers gave a bottle of bubbly. Free champagne is the best champagne.
One of Joel’s customers gave a bottle of bubbly. Free champagne is the best champagne.

Like every milestone that’s passed since I’ve been here, it’s still a little hard to believe that it happened. Like, how did all the holidays pass, all the seasons change, and all the shit that’s happened happen when I only got here like, 2 days ago?

Moving overseas was a huge process, and in the excitement of it all, I underestimated every step of it. I knew I’d miss my friends and family, but I didn’t know how devastatingly I’d miss them or how much I’d kick myself for not calling them every day when I was back in the States. I knew living in a new country would be an adjustment, but I didn’t account for the little things, for the crushing despair I’d feel from not being able to do a walk around Target when I’m feeling down, or for having to stand in the grocery store Googling “what is this ingredient called in Australia” or having a question about dinner and not being able to call my mom for advice. It didn’t occur to me that I’d feel like such an outsider in a first world, english speaking country, and I didn’t think about how feeling like an outsider would make it harder to make friends. I didn’t know how helpless and frustrated and angry I would feel when I’d hear about being able to do nothing about problems back home. I didn’t think about how scary it would be to count every dollar in my budget because I can’t just borrow $50 from my parents anymore. And I really didn’t think about the “hey, only I can talk shit about my family, ok?” reaction I’d get when I’d hear shit talk about the States and American policies – that was the most surprising.

So this year has been the biggest adjustment I’ve ever gone through. But, I can’t think of an adjustment that has been more important or more necessary. And for all the internal challenges I’ve faced this year, my support system has been incredible. I’ve met some great people through Joel and through work, and my parents been there for me, offering me endless support and turning a blind eye to me buying American TV shows through their Amazon prime (they also gave me a gift of temporarily taking over my student loan payments, which I’ll never be able to thank them enough for). My friends have never been more than a message or an impromptu Skype session away, which I’ve never been more thankful for.

I’ve also had a constant source of support and friendship and general badassery here, and it was from one aspect of my life that I knew I never had to worry about: Joel. For the first time ever, I feel like I have a partner. I have someone who isn’t just invested in me, but who is invested in us. I hadn’t realized it before I moved here, but I had always had him as my number one priority in life. Since being in Sydney, though, our life together has become the number one priority. And it’s been an eye opening experience. It’s our money and our problems and our home and our holidays and our life. He’s helped me to be more conscious of my spending, to be healthier, to be more patient and supportive of myself, and to let go of situations I have no control over. Of course, we’ve had our stumbling moments, but now, it feels effortless. I wake up every morning feel grateful that the universe knocked us together.

A whole year. Damn. It took a lot longer than I expected, but I feel like Sydney is becoming my home. I’ve met some great people, I know how to get around town more, I know what to expect from the seasons (i.e. how to dress and live during summer when you don’t have air conditioning), I have cheat sheets for the metric system, I’m determined to learn how to drive, I’m going to hit the beach way more, and life here doesn’t feel so lonely anymore. At the end of every month, I learn a few more lessons about living here. My visa is finally finished and turned in, and I’m employed full time. Basically, I finally feel ready to worry less and do more.

Time flies. At jet speeds. And it feels like so much has happened, even if it doesn’t look like it. Because all the things that happened were little. I realized the value of a dollar. The value of a phone call or even a text message to loved ones. The values of patience and consideration. The value of putting myself in someone else’s shoes. The value of eating healthier and moving more. The value in dropping bad habits. The value of letting go and forgiving. All these little realizations all added up to something huge: I finally grew up.

Happy anniversary, Sydney. Thanks for everything. xo

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Visa: the lodging

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FINALLY.

After 10 months of form filling, document acquiring, sorting, filing, collecting, copying, certifying, advising, nagging, collecting, copying, certifying, proofing, and double proofing, about $7,700 spent in applications and various administrative tasks, and various anxiety attacks and stern discussions, we finally finished my visa for partnership migration, and today I sent it to the Dept. of Immigration to be lodged.

I was excited and terrified to drop the application off at the post office today (registered, signature confirmation, express post – basically one step away from having a secret service member deliver it). My heart was racing and my hands were shaking as I wrote the address on the giant envelope. We’ve both been waiting so long for this day, and it seems unreal that it happened. And it’s going to be even weirder to sit in my study and not see the massive binder full of us staring back at me, and even weirder to not have “well, we need to save for the visa” trailing every monetary thought in my mind. If Joel hadn’t put in for half of it (THANK YOU), it would have been the second most expensive thing, after my car, that I’ve ever bought. Even then, it still stung the ol’ savings account. As Joel said, “Loving you is very expensive.” *

So now we play two waiting games. 1) Waiting for the confirmation letter from the Department of Immigration with all my bridging visa details, and 2) the 12-15 months it will take to process the encyclopaedia of Joel-Audrey (so many pages). And before anyone asks, no, it would not have been easier for us to “just get married.” We would have had to fill out the same huge amounts of paperwork and evidence, on top of the added pressure of getting married before either of us are ready just for the sake of a visa. Even I’m not that impulsive. Yeah, it would have saved us a few grand in application costs, but we probably would have spent that money on a wedding (and by that I mean flying my family over to our Australian JOP ceremony and McDonald’s reception).

It’s all done. I’m relieved, I’m scared, and I’m ever hopeful all at the same time. Actually, I think I’m so anxious, I’m ready to have a stroke. I love the life that Joel and I have created here. And I’m crossing every crossable appendage I have that we get to continue it.

*he has no idea.

A Tale of Two Insects, part 2

For me, there’s nothing quite like facing down a Huntsman. Since I’ve been in Sydney, I’ve had about 5 or 6 run ins with the tarantula looking creepy crawlies, and each time, I’ve been caught completely off guard. And each time, they’ve been increasingly bigger. And each time, I’ve run away from them while squealing and shuddering. Really.

My supervisor at work has told me, “Learn to love the Huntsman, and the Huntsman will love you back.” And it’s true, from what I’ve heard. While they are huge, hairy, huge, fast, scary, and huge, they are non-venomous. And they don’t make webs. And they’re scared of people, so they try to avoid humans. And since they love to eat mosquitoes and gnats and other annoying bugs, I’m sure if I let one live with us, I wouldn’t wake up with new, itchy bites every other morning. So Huntsman spiders are good. They’re really like Daddy Long Legs… except fucking terrifying.

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There aren’t enough shudders in the world.

As I’ve mentioned before, Joel promised me before I moved here that he would always take care of scary bugs for me. He’s delivered on that promise about a million times, from the small moths to the giant roaches to the hand sized spiders (above). He’s basically an insect hit man, and I love him for it.

But, even with my protective service, I still live in fear of spiders. When I come home from work or errands, I open my front door slowly, imagining seeing a giant spider on the living room wall. Whenever I wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, I turn on the light and carefully inspect the walls and around the toilet before I go in. I shake out each towel and bang my shoes together before I put them on. I shut the windows the second it gets dark. Spiders are present on my mind every day. And every time Joel comes to my rescue, I think to myself “one of these days Joel won’t be home, and I’ll have to take care of this myself.” And then I do what I always do when faced with a terrifying possibility that will happen and that I should plan for it accordingly–I quickly file the thought under “AVOID AVOID AVOID” and I forget about it. You know, what you’re supposed to do.

So then came that Friday night when I stayed in to write and Joel went out with his friends. I wrote a short essay and decided to reward myself with going to bed. This was around 10 PM, because that’s just the kind of wild creature I am. I walked into the bedroom, and my eyes immediately zeroed in on it. Right in between the mirror and the laundry hamper. A big, fat, Huntsman.

Without even thinking about it, I NOPED right out of there. But then I thought, No, I won’t let this spider defeat me. I grabbed a flip flop, and remembering how poorly it performed in the Battle of Giant Grasshopper, put it back down again. Instead, I picked up one of my Chucks and went back to reclaim all my dignity. And my bedroom.

I pushed myself into the room, and the spider was right where I left it. As I held the shoe, I thought, “I need to get close to the wall and actually hit the spider with the shoe. I should not throw the shoe, because that will only scare the spider. Do not just throw the shoe. Do not just–WHY DID I JUST THROW THE SHOE?!” Of course I threw the shoe. As I got closer to the wall, I was blinded by fear and surging with awkwardness. So I flung the shoe at the wall, somewhere in the vicinity of the spider. And as soon as the shoe left my hand, I saw the spider move, and I beat feet out of there, closing the door behind me. As I stood in the hallway, trying to catch my breath, I tried to convince myself that my shoe had somehow, magically, crushed the spider.

I texted Joel and let him know what happened. He reminded me to spray it with bug spray, which I hadn’t even thought of. Also, because he’s a lovely human being, he offered to come home and kill the spider for me. I thought that was nice gesture, and I’m pretty sure he actually would have done it if I asked, but I also know that I would have punched myself if I had insisted that he come home just to kill a spider on the one night he is able to go out with his pals.

So I gathered the bug spray, and I sat on the couch, gearing myself up to go back into the room. I knew that with every second I stayed out of the room was one more second that the spider had to run away from me, but I also knew that every second I stayed out of that room was one more second I didn’t have to deal with the spider. It was complicated.

15 minutes later, it finally happened. I carefully opened the door, my eyes closed, hoping against hope that I’d find a curled up spider on the floor near my shoe.

But I didn’t.

And do you know what’s scarier than seeing a giant spider on your wall? It’s seeing a giant spider on your wall and then not seeing it a minute later. I didn’t see it anywhere near where it was. It could have been behind the laundry hamper. It could have been INSIDE the laundry hamper. It could have been behind the dresser–hell, it could have been INSIDE my dresser drawers, hiding in my clothes and underpants. Or, it could be squatting in the pile of dirty clothes that was on the floor in front of the hamper (because of course that’s where the clothes go). AGHHHH!

GAHHHH
GAHHHH

I was out of ideas, and my situation had gone from scary to My Worst Nightmare. Not only was there a spider in my room, it was a huge spider. And I had no idea where it was. And it knew I wanted to kill it. And it was angry.

I turned out the light and closed the door. I sat on the couch and weighed my options. I could take Joel’s advice and move the the clothes, the hamper, and pull the dresser off the wall so I could find the spider and kill it. I could sleep on the couch and wait for Joel to come home. Or, I could just move out. Joel and I could start a fresh, spider-less existence. We could buy all new furniture and clothes and memories. The Huntsman could have this apartment. I probably spent another 15 minutes weighing my options.

I got up to move the furniture in the bedroom, but that wasn’t happening. I couldn’t convince myself to go back in there. I tried to sleep on the couch, but I couldn’t relax knowing that spider was on the loose. All I could imagine was the spider crawling under the door and lurking around the apartment. And unfortunately, I couldn’t move out without my laptop, which was in the bedroom. ugh.

I knew I had to track down the spider. So I gathered up some tools that I thought would be useful:
-Spider spray-Large tupperware container (for trapping)
-Kitchen tongs (for grabbing)

I entered the room, jumped onto the bed, and started strategizing.

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SHOW ME YOUR BATTLE FACE

The next hour was just me being nervous and moving like a scared cat. I sat on the bed and moved the clothes on the floor piece by piece using the kitchen tongs, shaking each piece out to see if a spider would fall out. It took me 20 minutes to coach myself into moving the furniture from off the walls so I could spray, but I did it. I moved everything and sprayed everywhere. And I still couldn’t find the fucker.

Choking on fumes and frustrated that I couldn’t find the spider, I retired to the couch. I knew I’d done–and did–everything I could, but that spider was still MIA. It was beyond frustrating. I sat down on the couch and started to figure out how I could move the bed and see if the spider hid behind the headboard. At this point, I was too tired to be scared, and I felt like I was really just over the spider. But, the next thing I knew, Joel was home and waking me up. All the trauma had wiped me out.

I marched Joel into the bedroom, and of course, the spider was right there in the middle of the wall. He trapped it with the tupperware and sent it back outside. Easy, two step process, even after a night out.

It took me 3 hours to convince myself that sitting in the room with a spider in it wouldn’t kill me. It took him 3 minutes to shoo the spider out. Whatever dignity I had left after I convinced my neighbor I was insane was completely tapped out.

Adjusting to life with insects is hard. It’s harder than the adjustment to living with no air conditioning. But I’ll keep trying, though. When I lived in North Carolina, I never thought I’d be able to kill the spider crickets that lived with us. But after a few months, I was smashing them without a second thought. I told Joel that I need to be the one who kills bugs from now on*. I feel like I need coaching and exposure therapy in Bug Self Defense. Like, that’s the only way I’m going to get over them. I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable living with them in the same room, but maybe I’ll get to the point where I can get close enough to trap them and throw them outside. Or at least to the point where I can do more than fling shoes.

One day.

*this is still a work in progress, as last night I wailed for Joel to come kill a tiny spider that was sitting on the toilet paper rack.

A Tale of Two Insects, Part 1

I am pathetically scared of large insects. Like, embarrassingly scared of them. And if there’s one thing my American friends like to continuously remind me of, is that Australia is the land of large insects.

The things I do for love.

Because, as a large insect-o-phobe, there are few things more jarring and/or butt hole puckering than waking up to pee and seeing this in your hall way:

OH HELLO
OH HELLO

Or opening your bathroom door and seeing this against the window pane:

WHAT UP BIG GUY
WHAT UP BIG GUY

Or, standing on your balcony and seeing this crawling on the rain gutter above you:

NOPE NOPE NOT EVEN
NOPE NOPE NOT EVEN

So, I have a most definite case of large insect fear. And it’s not like this fear is justified. Huntsmen spiders are non-aggressive and are harmless to humans. Same with grasshoppers. And cock roaches, even thought they’re gross, won’t hurt you. But they’re all SO. DAMN. BIG. And their large size gives them an other worldliness that I just can’t handle. Can’t handle, like, I get the shakes and the nervous sweats and heart palpitations and I lose the ability to speak when I see them. I basically feel as unglued as I look, even though I’m about 100x taller and 600 lbs heavier than them, with every tool at my disposal to murder them. I see 1 and I can’t stop seeing 500 of them, crawling all over me (and I know that won’t kill me–a roach crawled over my foot once and I’m still alive). I’m just a whuss, with a completely irrational fear of large insects. And I’ve accepted that.

My whussiness and paralytic fear in the face of large insects is bearable though, because one of the agreements that Joel and I made before I moved here was that he would be in charge of dispatching giant insects. And he’s been my night in Mortein armour. Except for those two times.

Those two times where my nightmare of “What happens when Joel’s not here and they come?” They being scary, knife wielding giant insects.

The first instance came on a particularly sweaty Sunday when I was coming home from the grocery store. I had my hands full, and I was out of breath from walking up the hill and up the stairs with heavy groceries. I walked up to my apartment door and there it was: the dreaded giant grasshopper, and there was no way I could step around him or over him. It stared at me. I stared at it. I took a step toward it, and it took a step toward me. I froze.

Seriously, my immediate instinct was to call Joel, who was at work, followed by thoughts of “I guess I could wait outside for 5 more hours until Joel gets back.” I turned to retreat down the stairs when I realized quickly that was crazy (because my ice cream would melt, not because of how obviously crazy is the notion of hiding from a grass hopper), and I tried to contain my panic. I thought I could shoo it away with my bags, but I couldn’t get myself close enough. As I stood there, frantically trying to strategize, the bug remained unphased. It knew as well as I did, that it would come down to him or me. I decided to use what I had at my disposal: my flip flops.

I put my bags down, brushed away the fears of WHAT IF IT JUMPS INTO MY BAG OMG, and took off one flip flop. My goal was to hit the shoe near the bug, just enough to scare it into jumping toward the neighbor’s door. While it was disoriented, I would grab my bags and run inside and never leave the apartment again. I aimed carefully at the grasshopper, and let my shoe fly.

It hit the door above the grasshopper, and landed a few inches away from it.

But the grasshopper didn’t move.

Are you kidding me?

I took off my other shoe, aimed more carefully, and let it fly. Same trajectory. Same result. This time, the bug moved. He crawled up the door.

Are you fucking kidding me!?

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At this point, I didn’t know what to do. I could go downstairs and grab the broom from the walk way, but the broom was outside in Spiderville. And I didn’t have any shoes because they were dangerously close to the grasshopper. I thought of grabbing my shoe and just swatting it off the door, but I also thought of that moment I bend down to grab the shoe and the grasshopper leaping off and flying into my hair. So I couldn’t do it. Also, I feared the longer I stood barefoot on the gross carpet outside in the gross hallway, the greater my chances of catching Hep C or something else terrible. Also, it was just getting hotter by the minute in our non-air conditioned building. Which meant I was roasting.

I was contemplating what groceries I could toss at my door to scare the grasshopper when I heard the blessed sounds of the front door opening downstairs. I held my breath as I heard whoever it was come up the first flight, and then the second flight, and my heart almost stopped when I saw one of our construction worker neighbors coming up toward me.

Now, I have very little dignity to begin with. And whatever was left was quickly cashed out when my neighbor saw me: red faced, sweat stained, shoeless American digging through her groceries and looking panicked at the sight of a grasshopper. He gave me a strange look and walked by me, but before he could escape, I meeked out “Excuse me but do you have a broom or a towel or something I could use there’s a giant grasshopper on my door and I’m terrified of it and I can’t get inside my apartment.”

I might as well have been 7 years old and wetting my pants while I explained this to him, because that was the extreme look of pity he gave me. He laughed a little and walked over to my door, saying “Oh yeah, I can get him for you.” I thanked him profusely as he took off his flip flop and chased the grass hopper down off the door, attempting to tell me they scared him too. He chased him off the stair ledge, and I finally felt safe. I introduced myself (which, in hindsight, I might have done first), and tried to explain that the grass hoppers aren’t that big in the States, and he laughed and tried to get away from me as quickly as possible. Understandably. I grabbed my groceries and my shoes and dashed inside. Vowing never to leave again.

The ordeal felt like it lasted 3 hours. It was probably only 15 minutes, but time stops when you’re alone and petrified. And while I’m beyond thankful our neighbor showed up, I hope I never have to see him again. Unless it’s while I’m doing something really heroic, like saving a bunch of orphaned kittens from drowning.

Tune in next time for Part 2, the Huntsman.

Sydney!

Hello, Sydney!

It’s been an ordeal of packing, good byes, visiting, more packing and more good byes, but I’ve finally made it to my new home. And so far, it’s wonderful.

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hey hey!

After a week in Los Angeles, I checked my bags with Virgin Australia and boarded my flight.

It’s a 16 hour flight from Sydney to Los Angles. The last time I visited Sydney, my flight back was perfect. I had the entire row to myself, a good dinner, and I stretched out and slept for 12 hours with a pile of pillows and blankets. But my flight back was atrocious. I was in the middle seat in the very last row of a completely sold out flight, and I only had one Xanax. Xanax? Yes. I used to be a nervous flyer–one of those people who would sit absolutely still lest I knock the plane out of balance–but now I’m asleep before the plane takes off. I’m fine with planes. What I’m not fine with is being bored and awake on a flight. It seems that long flights bring out the ADD in me, and no amount of movies, books, over priced mini-bottles, or tabloid crash can keep me occupied for more than a couple of hours. And while I have no problem falling asleep before take off, I always wake up when the attendants come by. Or when there’s slight turbulence. Or when the person beside me is snoring. So I take Xanax before flights to sleep through the entire experience and just be done with it.

Anyway… after I evaluated the conditions of the flight (delayed, cramped, stuffy, smelly seat mates), I decided to take my one and only Xanax immediately. I put my head phones in, pulled my hoodie down over my eyes, put my pillow up to my chin and made the “I’m sleeping, please don’t bother me” pose. But, the flight attendants woke me up for everything. Drink? Snack? Post-drink snack? Dinner? Drink? Are you sleeping? It was awful. And for 14 of the 16 hour flight, I was like a caged cat stuck between two sleeping giants.

So I wasn’t really looking forward to this flight. I pulled a packing ninja move, and crammed 3 large carry-on’s into 2 (packing my life for the win), with one bag dedicated to in-flight entertainment (including a stack of gossip trash–my last taste of America), pajamas, and a refill of Xanax. I was in luck, though, as I once again had the entire row to myself, a semi-good dinner, and a good round of sleep. I watched a beautiful sunrise around 5 AM, and sat glued to the window as we made our descent. I filled out my customs card, and felt a little spark as I got to the duration of visit section and checked the “12 months or more” box. 🙂

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Sunrise over the Pacific
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MORE SUNRISE
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Descent!

After waiting in the customs line for about 40 minutes, I grabbed my suitcases from the carousel. I juggled the two suitcases and my two giant carry-ons as awkwardly as possible, as everyone else stacked their luggage on smart carts. Being American, I had the “I’m not paying $7.50 for a damn luggage cart when my suitcases have wheels.” and it wasn’t until I was waiting in line for the second round of customs and my suitcases flipped or my carry-ons fell off that I realized the luggage carts were free. I felt like an idiot abroad until a Japanese woman trying to wrangle 4 rolling suitcases and a handful of stuffed animals got in line behind me. /solidarity

I got through the dog sniffing line (the dog got really excited when he smelled my suitcases, and the security guard asked me if I had cats at home. ha), and was finally released into the airport. I don’t know what possessed my luggage, but I couldn’t keep them rolling straight behind me. Since I couldn’t get wifi in the customs area, I had no way of contacting Joel to find out where he was. I was wide eyed and bushy haired and struggling with my luggage when the crowds literally parted and I saw him standing there, with the biggest grin on his face. My heart about burst out of my chest. We ran to each other, my bags flying everywhere. He grabbed me in a bear hug and I started crying. I swear, I’ve never felt so lit in my life.

We waited in line for a taxi, and we were finally on our way home. Joel handed me my keys, and when I opened the door, he had Welcome Home! streamers hung over the door ways. As soon as I dropped my bags, the place felt like home. Like there was no place else I’d rather be. It was good to be home.

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After I settled in for a bit, Joel gave me my birthday presents: a Fuji X-M1 camera with a 16 – 50 mm zoom lens, an Italian leather journal with my name hand embossed on the cover, a real fountain pen, and some damn awesome socks. I can’t tell which gift I’m more excited over. I love stationary. And I love fun socks. And I really love using a real camera. So, basically, I’m really looking forward to adding quality pictures here. While I wear my pizza socks. And doodle animal creatures and scribble my name 800x with my fancy pen in my fancy journal. So good!

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hand marbling!
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stationary 4 lyfe
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It has the feel of one of those ‘Nam-era photo journalist cameras, even if it’s digital. I have dubbed him T.Rexington
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SOCKS!

Joel’s mom sent over a welcome gift of wine, chocolate frogs, and notebooks, and a sweet card. It was such good welcome to my new home. Our new home 🙂

We went out for breakfast and coffee, and sight seeing.

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photo
Important parts of this picture: Hooker bank, Monkey bar, chili con carne croissant, Derp Face.

Our suburb, Balmain, is about 15 minutes from downtown Sydney, and is filled with shops and restaurants. And if you walk in any direction, you hit water. It’s so nice.

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It was so blustery that day, that we were almost blown off the cliff.
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Joel checking on things

Even when it’s freezing. Because spring just happened here, but the winter temps haven’t left. And I knew the temps leading up to my arrival had been between 50-60*, so I wasn’t too worried. I just didn’t take into account how close we are to the water. And how breezy it is here. A normal 57* here feels like 40* back home. For the last 6 days, I’ve regretted leaving my jackets and scarves at home to be shipped here later. And being in fall like temperatures without boots and a coat makes me feel naked and vulnerable in the most yuppy-can’t-even-deal way.

We ordered fancy pizzas for dinner, and had a Nicholas Cage movie marathon until I fell asleep at like, 9 PM.

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such yum

The next day, we went to see an exhibition of Tabaimo’s illustrations at the Museum of Contemporary Art, which were surreal and a bit unsettling, and I made the agonizing decision to get an iPhone.

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We got a really good deal on adding an extra line to Joel’s existing contract, and I got the 5s phone for a really good price (and an even better price since the USD is currently stronger than the AUD). I’ve been Team Droid since they came out, but I have to admit, life with a new phone is a hell of a lot easier. I mean, beside the 4+ hours it took to set everything up because I couldn’t remember my iTunes password and I kept having issues with my Gmail security. But now, I can make calls, and my apps load within mili-seconds, and my phone doesn’t turn off randomly or give me massive delays when typing. And it has a fancy gold case. Like a mix between RuPaul and C3-PO. I’m pretty happy. Even if my bank account is a little lighter.

We had lunch at the top of the Museum, and we watched a storm roll in over the harbor, and I had a Waygu beef sandwich that was life changing.

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Seagull pal!
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Joel’s chicken salad, which was equally amazing
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Joel!
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Waygu beef!

We got home and had taco night and I watched my first rugby game. Sports bore the shit out of me, but I kinda admit here, that rugby is pretty sweet.

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Rugby!
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Tacos!

The next day, we had an adventure to Ikea that started off amazing and ended almost terribly. But that’s another post unto itself.

My first few days in Sydney have been a blast. I’m slowly getting unpacked, our apartment is coming together, and Joel and I have awesomely over-indulged in sweat pants hang times. I’ve been able to chat with friends from home a few times, and I’ve even worked in a Skype with my family. I’ve had a few Idiot Abroad moments, and I’m learning the in’s and out’s of public transportation and Australian pronunciation (the names here are drowning in vowels). I miss everyone back home, but I’m really happy to be there. After all the waiting, all the time apart, and all the planning, I’m finally here. And it’s like I’ve never left.

Til next time!

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